A Problem with Realistic Fiction

Posted By Peter Vilbig on Feb 12, 2011 in Literature | 0 comments


The problem is that realistic fiction always lies in danger of being hijacked by aestheticians of the real, whose purpose is to present a set of aesthetically pleasing coded references to an already perceived world. This is not to criticize such performances. An irresistible force in the world is operating in this direction. Such fiction offers a brand that can be depended upon to deliver a code that is clear, obvious, and refined, and that is based upon a socially normative and easily recognized rule system whose productions, the cryptographs “truth,” “beauty,” and “excellence,” may be disputed only at the margins. These fictions are economically dictated, which is another way of saying they are dictated by the natural world. This is fiction that is finger-smackin’ good. This is fiction that tastes better. Who would deny this?

But what would a recovered contemporary realistic fiction look like? It would have at least the following characteristics: 1) it would not hold as its exclusive duty the remapping of already discovered or perceived worlds; 2) it would on its surface very likely appear to be unrealistic and would be language driven (the irony of these points is their least interesting component); 3) it would react through language to the heat and energy of unmapped sensations and would very likely traverse the obscure borders of such sensations; 4) it would inevitably fail to accomplish 1-3, since these imply impossible preconditions, and because markets, like all organic life, move endlessly toward reproduction and growth.

Therefore a fifth axiom for a contemporary, and one might even say, replevined, realism would have to include 5) failure, aesthetic disharmony, despoliation, and rupture—which is another way of saying: incoherence—incoherence that can only be made whole (and even register as an aesthetic object) through its concordance with an aesthetically perfected system of coded references to an already existing world.

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